So now that the excitement of Black Ops 2 launch day has gone and certain sites have had their time on their high horses about not attending review events I thought I’d give you a breakdown of what my experience was at the review event.. the good and the bad.
So on Sunday the 4th of November I arrived at O.R. Thambo airport to board a British Airways flight to London Heathrow. As is the norm for these events I was flying cattle class but this time it was by far the worst with the plane appearing to be from the 1800’s and my inherent fear of flying still going strong.
After a disastrous flight I arrived tired and smelly in London and was collected at the gate by a nice guy with a Call of Duty sign, after getting into his car we travelled for about an hour to the Aviator hotel where we arrived at around 8am.
Where I was told to wait in the corner and that someone would be with me shortly.
About an hour later I wandered over to the check in desk and they said they had no idea what was happening but they’d find an Activision rep to help me out. About 30 minutes later a friendly rep came over and explained that the event check in will only start at 12:30 so I just needed to sit tight… tired and smelly…
I wasn’t overly impressed and asked them to rather find me a room that I could at least shower and change in which they very graciously did.
After emerging slightly more human I grabbed my iPad and wasted a few hours on twitter and the like while I waited for 12:30 to arrive and to finally have that awesome lunch I had been dreaming about ever since reading their menu on the website.
I’m a bit of a foody so this was something I was really looking forward to as lets face it I was never going to be at this hotel by my own choosing so I may as well experience it.
Lunchtime arrived and as I entered the restaurant I was told that Lunch is actually being served upstairs in the Bar… WIN.. until I got up there to realise they had taken up the entire bar and were only serving sandwiches and fruit juice… The last time I had a lunch without a beer I think I was 12..
But never mind we’re not here for the food after all so I had some decent sandwiches and headed over to the media area where the event was explained to us.
We each had our own private hotel room with a 47” LG TV, an Xbox 360, a LG Sound bar and a set of Turtle Beach headsets (Which we could keep if we wanted to but were not obligated to). Then downstairs there was a room setup for two 12 player multiplayer setups that were being played over Xbox Live, a separate room for multiplayer Zombie mayhem and another room for the PS3 experience.
We were then split into 2 groups, A and B. A group were allowed to start multiplayer straight away while the B group were given a few hours for single player.. This was done as there were more than 24 people there so we couldn’t all do MP at the same time. Half the first MP group instantly headed to their rooms to rather get some SP time in and as I had SP first anyway I also headed up.
After about 3 hours I took a break and headed down to check out some zombie action, even though it wasn’t my time… then after that I headed into some MP gameplay for a couple of hours.
After which it was dinner time… finally time for fantastic food and beer.
Apparently since the latest fashion is to believe that we journalists are so corrupt that allowing us to order food from the menu in the only restaurant in the area would be seen as bribery so instead we were given a buffet of pretty crappy food and orange juice or coffee.
After which the guys either headed back to their rooms or headed to the media area for more MP and some demonstrations about CODCasting and Live Streaming which were led by the guys from Treyarch and no matter how hard they tried no one was interested in giving it a go themselves.. mainly because it looked freaking hard.
After which I played some more MP until the bar opened at 9pm only to find that they were only offering 2 types of beer, a cider thing and some wine.. all of which was hidden with soft drinks and packets of chips being offered up front.
The second day followed much the same pattern except that at lunch I grabbed a sandwich and went to the bar downstairs and ordered a few beers because screw you I’m an adult and don’t feel like being treated like a child. I repeated that for dinner.
The next morning we were kicked out at 9am even though my flight only left for South Africa at 6pm that night and instead of being dropped at Heathrow and sitting around for 8 hours I convinced them to let me on the London bus so I could wander around one of the best cities on the planet and I’d find my own way back to the airport.
The moral here isn’t that I think we were treated badly, Activision were professional the entire time and I was given complete and utter freedom to experience the single player campaign any way that I’d like. The multiplayer section started as a demo of all the different game types and then each new map or gameplay mode was democratically selected by all the people there. There is absolutely no chance that I would have been able to experience so much multiplayer in the comfort of my own home.
Personally I come from a country where we live with an incredibly high quality lifestyle and being forced into crappy buffet food and fruit juice isn’t going to persuade me to rate a game higher or lower than what I feel it is worth. Anyone who can be persuaded to change their score that easily is obviously not in the right industry and will quickly be caught out.
Also having Treyarch employees on hand to answer questions directly is invaluable.
So Eurogamer’s decision to not attend the event is not only idiotic in my eyes but entirely hypocritical as their Italian representative was there so Eurogamer in some form or another were at the event.
Oh and yes I took the headsets, I don’t have R2500 to get my own pair and they are awesome… A review will be coming up about those.
TL;DR, the hotel was fine the food was terrible and I live a more comfortable life in my own home so no I wasn’t pressured to give a better score.
So any questions? Do you think attending these events pressurises journalists? How should Activision and others allow journalists early access to the games for day one reviews while ensuring they are given fair access to online play?